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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 April 2012

Tunisia: Brutal government crackdown on protesters will backfire

CWI reporters, Tunis

On Monday 9 April in central Tunis, horrific brutality was used by Tunisian police to repress peaceful protesters. This is undoubtedly the worst police crackdown for months in the country.

What is already being called 'Black Monday' brings to light the real character of the new tripartite coalition in power (the 'troika'), a coalition prepared to reinstate the worst methods of the ousted dictator Ben Ali.

Different demonstrations and rallies were taking place in the capital on that day to commemorate the anniversary of 'Martyrs' Day', a reference to the bloody repression of pro-independence demonstrators by French colonial troops in 1938.

This occasion was seized upon by many to protest against the present Ennahda-led government, to honour the dead of last year's counter-revolutionary killings, as well as to defy the ban on demonstrations in Bourguiba Avenue imposed by the Interior Ministry in late March. Some of the marchers had walked for several days from the inland regions to demonstrate in the capital.

As thousands marched to Bourguiba Avenue, they were rapidly met with brutal repression by the police who used batons, tear gas and rubber bullets. The scene soon became a field of indiscriminate revenge by the police aided by thugs suspected to be supporters of the ruling Ennahda party.

Government lies

The Interior Ministry has made trumped up charges against the protesters, pretending that Molotov cocktails had been used by them. While there is numerous evidence of the police's violent provocation, nothing of the kind can be found to back such claims about the protesters.

"Tunisia is not threatened by dictatorship, it is threatened by chaos," Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda's leader said, putting the blame on what he describes as "Stalinist anarchists". This political cover for the police action betrays the fact that what happened on Monday is not at all accidental but was engineered by those in power in an attempt to intimidate and discourage the most active layers from pursuing their aspirations for change.

This repression followed attacks on another march organised by the UDC (union of the unemployed graduates) on 7 April, with the central demand of the right of a decent job for all. Also, in February, the trade union federation UGTT's offices were raided.

However, this repression will strengthen the growing understanding that the Ennahda-led government is the enemy of the aims that working people and youth had for the revolution.

Throughout the country the climate is now particularly tense. A general strike has taken place in Ktar (in the Gafsa region), another in Sidi Bouzid, and Ennahda's offices have been burned down in several areas. A strike of all students and school students has been declared in Sousse, and other actions by the student union, the UGET, are also under discussion.

On 11 April, a council of ministers decided to lift the ban on demonstrations in Bourguiba Avenue.

This shows that the government is not that confident to engage in a frontal assault on the revolutionary youth and workers and fears a wider reaction which could get out of control.

However, the events of the last days clearly indicate the direction in which the new regime wants to move. New attempts on its part to counter-attack will necessarily arise.

The CWI denounces the rising police repression and harassment of political and trade union activists, demands freedom of speech and assembly for all, an immediate removal of the continuing state of emergency, as well as the immediate release of all the protesters arrested over the last few days.

An independent inquiry should be led by the UGTT, the UDC and other popular movements to determine who was responsible for the police violence that took place over the weekend and on Monday.

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In The Socialist 18 April 2012:


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